August 1, 2008

Link-O-Rama

Today marks the sixth anniversary of this blog, which seems unfathomable to me. Seriously, six years. When this blog debuted on August 1, 2002 the guy writing it was a teenager home from college for the summer, searching for any kind of way to write for some sort of audience after failing to grab a spot on the school newspaper. Six years, 1,458 entries, 8,471 links to Elisha Cuthbert pictures, and 4.3 million visitors later I'm a 25-year-old quasi-adult with a full-time job and 30-year mortgage. It's scary, really.

Like a child actor on a long-running sitcom, I've grown up on this blog. Or at least whatever growing up I've done has been chronicled here. If you'd told me back in 2002 that this blog would be around six months later, I'd have been surprised. If you'd told me back in 2002 that this blog would be around six years later and would be largely responsible for most good things in my life ... well, I'd have stared blankly at you like people back in 2002 stared blankly at me when I tried to explain what a "blog" was.

Whether this is your first day here or you've been around for all six years (hi mom!), thanks for stopping by. My dream has always been to write about sports for a living and while this isn't quite the path that was stuck in my head growing up, it's been an amazing experience full of wonderful opportunities and I couldn't be happier with how the ride has gone so far. And none of it would have been possible without this blog and the people who read it, so thank you.

While my head tries to wrap itself around the fact that I've been doing this for six years, here's the usual assortment of Friday links ...

  • Apparently Mariners fans aren't loving the Carlos Silva experience. Only three more years to go!
  • After being in attendance at the Metrodome for Wednesday night's ugly loss to the White Sox, nothing would please me more than having seen Livan Hernandez's final Twins start in person. Sitting in the center-field stands with longtime online friend Greg Tamer and his brother-in-law, plus semi-retired Twins blogger Will Young and his wife, we saw people in the section to our right knocking around what was seemingly an endless supply of beach balls throughout the game.

    They'd blow up a half-dozen balls, smack them around the section for a few minutes, and then watch as one particular female usher would angrily grab them and pop each one while scolding everyone. And then 15 minutes later another half-dozen beach balls would be flying around the section. It was oddly pretty fascinating and there must have been at least 25 balls involved, which made life miserable (or perhaps more miserable) for the usher.

    Near the end of the game Will grabbed hold of a beach ball and popped it with the pen he'd been using to keep score, which incensed everyone around us. A fairly loud chant of "a**-hole, a**-hole, a**-hole" immediately started--which Greg and I giddily took part in--and throughout the last couple innings Will was heckled from all sides by some legitimately furious people. Among the many things that angry fans called Will was "ball-point pen guy," which is a nickname that I'm really hoping sticks.

  • So, to answer Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com LaVelle E. Neal III's question: Yes, please.
  • If you looked like Bar Rafaeli in a bikini, you'd spend a lot of time in this pose too.
  • Irony of the Week: Former Detroit News columnist Jerry Green recently penned a long, vitriolic rant against "trade deadline gossip" that included the usual attack against "nonsensical internet bloggers" (as opposed to non-internet bloggers?) and "faceless 21st-century bloggers." At the conclusion of his 1,300 internet-hating words there's this note: "Jerry Green is a retired Detroit News sportswriter. Read his Web-exclusive column every Sunday at detnews.com."
  • To celebrate six years of blogging, perhaps one of my beloved readers will get me the 2009 edition of Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com Keeley Hazell's annual calendar. I'm not picky, so either the "swimsuit edition" or "lingerie edition" would be just fine. Or both. Or maybe a dozen copies of each. Whatever.
  • A few weeks ago my usual Friday morning appearance on KFAN came moments after Mike Morris, Cory Cove, and Chris Hawkey had comedian Mitch Fatel as their in-studio guest, so my first on-air comment was that going from him to me might be the steepest guest-to-guest dropoff in radio history. Apparently I'm a magnet for such things, because after leading off his new interview series last week with Moneyball author Michael Lewis, Rob Neyer and ESPN.com had to settle for me this time around.
  • As director Kevin Smith shows, it's never a great idea to pick on the funny guy with a microphone:


    "Wear black and wear layers."
  • For fat guys like me dripping with sweat in public tends to turn people off, but Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com runner-up Marisa Miller doesn't seem to have that problem.
  • E-mail of the Week, courtesy of some guy who has since been banned from the comments section:
    You can look at all the bogus sabremetric stats you want, and twist any stat to say what you want it to say really. Sabremetric stats are a terrible representation of a player's effectiveness. Everyone seems to worship a guy like Joe Mauer. I'm sure those sabremetric stats you lend so much credence in say he's great. However, when I watch him play, I see a powerless black hole in the #3 spot in the order. I see a mediocre game caller and a guy who lets way too many balls go between his legs. I see a giant rally killer in the middle of the lineup that always finds a way to ground into a double play when the Twins need runs the most.

    You can kiss Gardenhire's ass all you want, and you too excessively in my opinion, but he is one of the worst in game managers in baseball. Between what you've said on Morris' show and in your blogs, all you do is kiss Gardenhire's ass. I'd love to see anything where you don't. Do forward me these blog entries, if they even exist. You're blog would be for everyone if you knew what you were talking about. your garbage sabremetric stats are just filler due to your lack of actual opinion on anything. You should be ashamed for putting such garbage on your site!!!

    A few things. First, the guy's initial e-mail led off with: "Usually your blogs are great. They make a lot of sense. I agree with the majority of them." Seriously. Things were going smoothly until "however" and then it fell apart in a hurry. Beyond that, someone suggesting that "all you do is kiss Ron Gardenhire's ass" is spectacularly amusing to me and probably to anyone who's read this blog for any length of time. As you might guess, our e-mailer began reading the blog last week after hearing me on KFAN.

  • One of those "bogus sabermetric stats" that you'll see quoted here often is xFIP, which stands for Expected Fielding Independent Pitching and essentially does a better job than ERA at showing how effective a pitcher has been. Not only do guys like me who "lack an actual opinion on something" use xFIP, but apparently major-league pitchers do too:
    Brian Bannister feels nervous over breakfast. And when Bannister feels nervous, he goes to the numbers. In rough times, he has always found comfort in numbers. "Look at my xFIP," he is saying as he pulls out a few pages he printed off the Internet site, "The Hardball Times." ... At the moment--it is Thursday morning, just 36 hours before what might be the most important start of Brian Bannister's still budding career--he is dying to understand what the heck has happened to him.

    "Look," he says, and here is his row of xFIP numbers: 2006: 6.29. 2007: 5.14. 2008: 4.59. "Look at that," he says again. "I'm actually pitching better than I was last year. My xFIP is down. It's just that I got lucky last year." Then he stares at the numbers for another few seconds, and he offers a frustrated smile because he knows that, in the end, nobody else really cares about his xFIP.

    Brian Bannister has gone 3-0 with a 2.00 ERA against the Twins, but one of my rules is that whenever a stat-head pitcher uses a website co-created by me to analyze his performance via one of my go-to stats and gets an article written about his doing so by always awesome Kansas City Star columnist Joe Posnanski, I'm willing to overlook his beating my favorite team. Pat Neshek and Bannister really ought to hang out.

  • Greg Oden, Kevin Durant, Maria Sharapova, Camilla Belle, and a funny photo. They're only human.
  • After 21 years at the Baltimore Sun, Orioles beat writer Roch Kubatko recently accepted a buyout to become the latest in a long line of veteran newspaper writers to leave the medium. Kubatko was on the beat long enough to work with a pre-Minneapolis Star Tribune Joe Christensen and a pre-FOX Sports Ken Rosenthal, and despite caring little about the Orioles his reporting and blogging always kept me interested (he's also been friendly to me and contributed to a Rotoworld Draft Guide).

    As someone who grew up wanting to write for a newspaper and ended up making a living online, I've been fascinated with the rapidly changing media landscape. Because of that fascination it wasn't so long ago that this space was regularly filled with news of the latest print-to-web switches taking place across the country, but over the past couple years newspaper departures have become so common that it now hardly seems like news at all. Good luck, Roch.

  • In his latest masterpiece, Jim Souhan spends a thousand words explaining that the Twins should have traded Francisco Liriano to the Mariners for Adrian Beltre, who's currently hitting .257/.326/.439, has a .270/.327/.458 career line, and will make $12 million next season before becoming a free agent. The lesson? Shecky writing a column for the state's largest newspaper is plenty bad for Twins fans, but his being the team's general manager would be even worse.
  • When he's not adding "type" or "level" to every other word, Twins television announcer Bert Blyleven has been busy helping pitchers on opposing teams:
    Paul Byrd ... credited former major leaguer and current Twins broadcaster Bert Blyleven for a new grip on his slider that resulted in added effectiveness against left-handers. Blyleven's advice pertained to the curveball he threw in his long career, but Byrd applied it to a slider because he doesn't throw a curve. "I struck out three left-handers with it," he said.

    Interestingly, the new-and-improved Paul Byrd is scheduled to face the Twins this weekend.

  • Now that she's started a family by becoming a mom, Jessica Alba has important cooking tips.
  • After talking up LaTroy Hawkins in this space Monday as a potentially worthwhile acquisition for the Twins and learning later that they were actually interested in him, the Yankees ended up trading him to the Astros for a marginal prospect. Oh well.
  • If you have previous experience playing WhatIfSports.com's Hardball Dynasty and are interested in taking over an existing franchise in a highly competitive, close-nit "world" that's entering Season 8, drop me an e-mail.
  • This blog amassing 4.3 million visitors over six years sounds impressive until you consider that Rotoworld topped 2.5 million page views yesterday. Apparently a lot of you took my advice to "abandon work and spend your day hitting 'reload' on Rotoworld's constantly updated player news page" as the trading deadline approached. For anyone who didn't, you can read my lengthy column breaking down the blockbuster three-team Manny Ramirez trade by clicking here.
  • Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is Amos Lee singing a live, acoustic version of "Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight":


  • Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

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